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green warriors commencing a thorough search of the palace for other
Zodangans and for loot, and Dejah Thoris and I were left alone.

She had sunk into one of the golden thrones, and as I turned to her she
greeted me with a wan smile.

"Was there ever such a man!" she exclaimed. "I know that Barsoom has
never before seen your like. Can it be that all Earth men are as you?
Alone, a stranger, hunted, threatened, persecuted, you have done in a
few short months what in all the past ages of Barsoom no man has ever
done: joined together the wild hordes of the sea bottoms and brought
them to fight as allies of a red Martian people."

"The answer is easy, Dejah Thoris," I replied smiling. "It was not I
who did it, it was love, love for Dejah Thoris, a power that would work
greater miracles than this you have seen."

A pretty flush overspread her face and she answered,

"You may say that now, John Carter, and I may listen, for I am free."

"And more still I have to say, ere it is again too late," I returned.
"I have done many strange things in my life, many things that wiser men
would not have dared, but never in my wildest fancies have I dreamed of
winning a Dejah Thoris for myself - for never had I dreamed that in all
the universe dwelt such a woman as the Princess of Helium. That you
are a princess does not abash me, but that you are you is enough to
make me doubt my sanity as I ask you, my princess, to be mine."

"He does not need to be abashed who so well knew the answer to his plea
before the plea were made," she replied, rising and placing her dear
hands upon my shoulders, and so I took her in my arms and kissed her.

And thus in the midst of a city of wild conflict, filled with the
alarms of war; with death and destruction reaping their terrible
harvest around her, did Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, true daughter
of Mars, the God of War, promise herself in marriage to John Carter,
Gentleman of Virginia.




CHAPTER XXVI

THROUGH CARNAGE TO JOY


Sometime later Tars Tarkas and Kantos Kan returned to report that
Zodanga had been completely reduced. Her forces were entirely
destroyed or captured, and no further resistance was to be expected
from within. Several battleships had escaped, but there were thousands
of war and merchant vessels under guard of Thark warriors.

The lesser hordes had commenced looting and quarreling among
themselves, so it was decided that we collect what warriors we could,
man as many vessels as possible with Zodangan prisoners and make for
Helium without further loss of time.

Five hours later we sailed from the roofs of the dock buildings with a
fleet of two hundred and fifty battleships, carrying nearly one hundred
thousand green warriors, followed by a fleet of transports with our
thoats.

Behind us we left the stricken city in the fierce and brutal clutches
of some forty thousand green warriors of the lesser hordes. They were
looting, murdering, and fighting amongst themselves. In a hundred
places they had applied the torch, and columns of dense smoke were
rising above the city as though to blot out from the eye of heaven the
horrid sights beneath.

In the middle of the afternoon we sighted the scarlet and yellow towers
of Helium, and a short time later a great fleet of Zodangan battleships
rose from the camps of the besiegers without the city, and advanced to
meet us.

The banners of Helium had been strung from stem to stern of each of our
mighty craft, but the Zodangans did not need this sign to realize that
we were enemies, for our green Martian warriors had opened fire upon
them almost as they left the ground. With their uncanny marksmanship
they raked the on-coming fleet with volley after volley.

The twin cities of Helium, perceiving that we were friends, sent out
hundreds of vessels to aid us, and then began the first real air battle
I had ever witnessed.

The vessels carrying our green warriors were kept circling above the
contending fleets of Helium and Zodanga, since their batteries were
useless in the hands of the Tharks who, having no navy, have no skill
in naval gunnery. Their small-arm fire, however, was most effective,
and the final outcome of the engagement was strongly influenced, if not
wholly determined, by their presence.

At first the two forces circled at the same altitude, pouring broadside
after broadside into each other. Presently a great hole was torn in
the hull of one of the immense battle craft from the Zodangan camp;
with a lurch she turned completely over, the little figures of her crew
plunging, turning and twisting toward the ground a thousand feet below;
then with sickening velocity she tore after them, almost completely
burying herself in the soft loam of the ancient sea bottom.

A wild cry of exultation arose from the Heliumite squadron, and with
redoubled ferocity they fell upon the Zodangan fleet. By a pretty
maneuver two of the vessels of Helium gained a position above their
adversaries, from which they poured upon them from their keel bomb
batteries a perfect torrent of exploding bombs.

Then, one by one, the battleships of Helium succeeded in rising above
the Zodangans, and in a short time a number of the beleaguering
battleships were drifting hopeless wrecks toward the high scarlet tower
of greater Helium. Several others attempted to escape, but they were
soon surrounded by thousands of tiny individual fliers, and above each
hung a monster battleship of Helium ready to drop boarding parties upon
their decks.

Within but little more than an hour from the moment the victorious
Zodangan squadron had risen to meet us from the camp of the besiegers
the battle was over, and the remaining vessels of the conquered
Zodangans were headed toward the cities of Helium under prize crews.

There was an extremely pathetic side to the surrender of these mighty
fliers, the result of an age-old custom which demanded that surrender
should be signalized by the voluntary plunging to earth of the
commander of the vanquished vessel. One after another the brave
fellows, holding their colors high above their heads, leaped from the
towering bows of their mighty craft to an awful death.

Not until the commander of the entire fleet took the fearful plunge,
thus indicating the surrender of the remaining vessels, did the
fighting cease, and the useless sacrifice of brave men come to an end.

We now signaled the flagship of Helium's navy to approach, and when she
was within hailing distance I called out that we had the Princess Dejah
Thoris on board, and that we wished to transfer her to the flagship
that she might be taken immediately to the city.

As the full import of my announcement bore in upon them a great cry
arose from the decks of the flagship, and a moment later the colors of
the Princess of Helium broke from a hundred points upon her upper
works. When the other vessels of the squadron caught the meaning of
the signals flashed them they took up the wild acclaim and unfurled her
colors in the gleaming sunlight.

The flagship bore down upon us, and as she swung gracefully to and
touched our side a dozen officers sprang upon our decks. As their
astonished gaze fell upon the hundreds of green warriors, who now came
forth from the fighting shelters, they stopped aghast, but at sight of
Kantos Kan, who advanced to meet them, they came forward, crowding
about him.

Dejah Thoris and I then advanced, and they had no eyes for other than
her. She received them gracefully, calling each by name, for they were
men high in the esteem and service of her grandfather, and she knew
them well.

"Lay your hands upon the shoulder of John Carter," she said to them,
turning toward me, "the man to whom Helium owes her princess as well as
her victory today."

They were very courteous to me and said many kind and complimentary
things, but what seemed to impress them most was that I had won the aid
of the fierce Tharks in my campaign for the liberation of Dejah Thoris,
and the relief of Helium.

"You owe your thanks more to another man than to me," I said, "and here
he is; meet one of Barsoom's greatest soldiers and statesmen, Tars
Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark."

With the same polished courtesy that had marked their manner toward me
they extended their greetings to the great Thark, nor, to my surprise,
was he much behind them in ease of bearing or in courtly speech.
Though not a garrulous race, the Tharks are extremely formal, and their
ways lend themselves amazingly to dignified and courtly manners.

Dejah Thoris went aboard the flagship, and was much put out that I
would not follow, but, as I explained to her, the battle was but partly
won; we still had the land forces of the besieging Zodangans to account
for, and I would not leave Tars Tarkas until that had been accomplished.

The commander of the naval forces of Helium promised to arrange to have
the armies of Helium attack from the city in conjunction with our land
attack, and so the vessels separated and Dejah Thoris was borne in
triumph back to the court of her grandfather, Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
Helium.

In the distance lay our fleet of transports, with the thoats of the
green warriors, where they had remained during the battle. Without
landing stages it was to be a difficult matter to unload these beasts
upon the open plain, but there was nothing else for it, and so we put
out for a point about ten miles from the city and began the task.

It was necessary to lower the animals to the ground in slings and this
work occupied the remainder of the day and half the night. Twice we
were attacked by parties of Zodangan cavalry, but with little loss,
however, and after darkness shut down they withdrew.

As soon as the last thoat was unloaded Tars Tarkas gave the command to
advance, and in three parties we crept upon the Zodangan camp from the
north, the south and the east.

About a mile from the main camp we encountered their outposts and, as
had been prearranged, accepted this as the signal to charge. With
wild, ferocious cries and amidst the nasty squealing of battle-enraged
thoats we bore down upon the Zodangans.

We did not catch them napping, but found a well-entrenched battle line
confronting us. Time after time we were repulsed until, toward noon, I
began to fear for the result of the battle.

The Zodangans numbered nearly a million fighting men, gathered from
pole to pole, wherever stretched their ribbon-like waterways, while
pitted against them were less than a hundred thousand green warriors.
The forces from Helium had not arrived, nor could we receive any word
from them.

Just at noon we heard heavy firing all along the line between the
Zodangans and the cities, and we knew then that our much-needed
reinforcements had come.

Again Tars Tarkas ordered the charge, and once more the mighty thoats
bore their terrible riders against the ramparts of the enemy. At the
same moment the battle line of Helium surged over the opposite
breastworks of the Zodangans and in another moment they were being
crushed as between two millstones. Nobly they fought, but in vain.

The plain before the city became a veritable shambles ere the last
Zodangan surrendered, but finally the carnage ceased, the prisoners
were marched back to Helium, and we entered the greater city's gates, a
huge triumphal procession of conquering heroes.

The broad avenues were lined with women and children, among which were
the few men whose duties necessitated that they remain within the city
during the battle. We were greeted with an endless round of applause
and showered with ornaments of gold, platinum, silver, and precious
jewels. The city had gone mad with joy.

My fierce Tharks caused the wildest excitement and enthusiasm. Never
before had an armed body of green warriors entered the gates of Helium,
and that they came now as friends and allies filled the red men with
rejoicing.

That my poor services to Dejah Thoris had become known to the
Heliumites was evidenced by the loud crying of my name, and by the
loads of ornaments that were fastened upon me and my huge thoat as we
passed up the avenues to the palace, for even in the face of the
ferocious appearance of Woola the populace pressed close about me.

As we approached this magnificent pile we were met by a party of
officers who greeted us warmly and requested that Tars Tarkas and his
jeds with the jeddaks and jeds of his wild allies, together with
myself, dismount and accompany them to receive from Tardos Mors an
expression of his gratitude for our services.

At the top of the great steps leading up to the main portals of the
palace stood the royal party, and as we reached the lower steps one of
their number descended to meet us.

He was an almost perfect specimen of manhood; tall, straight as an
arrow, superbly muscled and with the carriage and bearing of a ruler of
men. I did not need to be told that he was Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
Helium.

The first member of our party he met was Tars Tarkas and his first
words sealed forever the new friendship between the races.

"That Tardos Mors," he said, earnestly, "may meet the greatest living
warrior of Barsoom is a priceless honor, but that he may lay his hand
on the shoulder of a friend and ally is a far greater boon."

"Jeddak of Helium," returned Tars Tarkas, "it has remained for a man of
another world to teach the green warriors of Barsoom the meaning of
friendship; to him we owe the fact that the hordes of Thark can
understand you; that they can appreciate and reciprocate the sentiments
so graciously expressed."

Tardos Mors then greeted each of the green jeddaks and jeds, and to
each spoke words of friendship and appreciation.

As he approached me he laid both hands upon my shoulders.

"Welcome, my son," he said; "that you are granted, gladly, and without
one word of opposition, the most precious jewel in all Helium, yes, on
all Barsoom, is sufficient earnest of my esteem."

We were then presented to Mors Kajak, Jed of lesser Helium, and father
of Dejah Thoris. He had followed close behind Tardos Mors and seemed
even more affected by the meeting than had his father.

He tried a dozen times to express his gratitude to me, but his voice
choked with emotion and he could not speak, and yet he had, as I was to
later learn, a reputation for ferocity and fearlessness as a fighter
that was remarkable even upon warlike Barsoom. In common with all
Helium he worshiped his daughter, nor could he think of what she had
escaped without deep emotion.




CHAPTER XXVII

FROM JOY TO DEATH


For ten days the hordes of Thark and their wild allies were feasted and
entertained, and, then, loaded with costly presents and escorted by ten
thousand soldiers of Helium commanded by Mors Kajak, they started on
the return journey to their own lands. The jed of lesser Helium with a
small party of nobles accompanied them all the way to Thark to cement
more closely the new bonds of peace and friendship.

Sola also accompanied Tars Tarkas, her father, who before all his
chieftains had acknowledged her as his daughter.

Three weeks later, Mors Kajak and his officers, accompanied by Tars
Tarkas and Sola, returned upon a battleship that had been dispatched to
Thark to fetch them in time for the ceremony which made Dejah Thoris
and John Carter one.

For nine years I served in the councils and fought in the armies of
Helium as a prince of the house of Tardos Mors. The people seemed
never to tire of heaping honors upon me, and no day passed that did not
bring some new proof of their love for my princess, the incomparable
Dejah Thoris.

In a golden incubator upon the roof of our palace lay a snow-white egg.
For nearly five years ten soldiers of the jeddak's Guard had constantly
stood over it, and not a day passed when I was in the city that Dejah
Thoris and I did not stand hand in hand before our little shrine
planning for the future, when the delicate shell should break.

Vivid in my memory is the picture of the last night as we sat there
talking in low tones of the strange romance which had woven our lives
together and of this wonder which was coming to augment our happiness
and fulfill our hopes.

In the distance we saw the bright-white light of an approaching
airship, but we attached no special significance to so common a sight.
Like a bolt of lightning it raced toward Helium until its very speed
bespoke the unusual.

Flashing the signals which proclaimed it a dispatch bearer for the
jeddak, it circled impatiently awaiting the tardy patrol boat which
must convoy it to the palace docks.

Ten minutes after it touched at the palace a message called me to the
council chamber, which I found filling with the members of that body.

On the raised platform of the throne was Tardos Mors, pacing back and
forth with tense-drawn face. When all were in their seats he turned
toward us.

"This morning," he said, "word reached the several governments of
Barsoom that the keeper of the atmosphere plant had made no wireless
report for two days, nor had almost ceaseless calls upon him from a
score of capitals elicited a sign of response.

"The ambassadors of the other nations asked us to take the matter in
hand and hasten the assistant keeper to the plant. All day a thousand
cruisers have been searching for him until just now one of them returns
bearing his dead body, which was found in the pits beneath his house
horribly mutilated by some assassin.

"I do not need to tell you what this means to Barsoom. It would take
months to penetrate those mighty walls, in fact the work has already
commenced, and there would be little to fear were the engine of the
pumping plant to run as it should and as they all have for hundreds of
years; but the worst, we fear, has happened. The instruments show
a rapidly decreasing air pressure on all parts of Barsoom - the engine
has stopped."

"My gentlemen," he concluded, "we have at best three days to live."

There was absolute silence for several minutes, and then a young noble
arose, and with his drawn sword held high above his head addressed
Tardos Mors.

"The men of Helium have prided themselves that they have ever shown
Barsoom how a nation of red men should live, now is our opportunity to
show them how they should die. Let us go about our duties as though a
thousand useful years still lay before us."

The chamber rang with applause and as there was nothing better to do
than to allay the fears of the people by our example we went our ways
with smiles upon our faces and sorrow gnawing at our hearts.

When I returned to my palace I found that the rumor already had reached
Dejah Thoris, so I told her all that I had heard.

"We have been very happy, John Carter," she said, "and I thank whatever
fate overtakes us that it permits us to die together."

The next two days brought no noticeable change in the supply of air,
but on the morning of the third day breathing became difficult at the
higher altitudes of the rooftops. The avenues and plazas of Helium
were filled with people. All business had ceased. For the most part
the people looked bravely into the face of their unalterable doom.
Here and there, however, men and women gave way to quiet grief.

Toward the middle of the day many of the weaker commenced to succumb
and within an hour the people of Barsoom were sinking by thousands into
the unconsciousness which precedes death by asphyxiation.

Dejah Thoris and I with the other members of the royal family had
collected in a sunken garden within an inner courtyard of the palace.
We conversed in low tones, when we conversed at all, as the awe of the
grim shadow of death crept over us. Even Woola seemed to feel the
weight of the impending calamity, for he pressed close to Dejah Thoris
and to me, whining pitifully.

The little incubator had been brought from the roof of our palace at
request of Dejah Thoris and she sat gazing longingly upon the
unknown little life that now she would never know.

As it was becoming perceptibly difficult to breathe Tardos Mors arose,
saying,

"Let us bid each other farewell. The days of the greatness of Barsoom
are over. Tomorrow's sun will look down upon a dead world which
through all eternity must go swinging through the heavens peopled not
even by memories. It is the end."

He stooped and kissed the women of his family, and laid his strong hand
upon the shoulders of the men.

As I turned sadly from him my eyes fell upon Dejah Thoris. Her head
was drooping upon her breast, to all appearances she was lifeless.
With a cry I sprang to her and raised her in my arms.

Her eyes opened and looked into mine.

"Kiss me, John Carter," she murmured. "I love you! I love you! It is
cruel that we must be torn apart who were just starting upon a life of
love and happiness."

As I pressed her dear lips to mine the old feeling of unconquerable
power and authority rose in me. The fighting blood of Virginia sprang
to life in my veins.

"It shall not be, my princess," I cried. "There is, there must be some
way, and John Carter, who has fought his way through a strange world
for love of you, will find it."

And with my words there crept above the threshold of my conscious mind
a series of nine long forgotten sounds. Like a flash of lightning in
the darkness their full purport dawned upon me - the key to the three
great doors of the atmosphere plant!

Turning suddenly toward Tardos Mors as I still clasped my dying love to
my breast I cried.

"A flier, Jeddak! Quick! Order your swiftest flier to the palace top.
I can save Barsoom yet."

He did not wait to question, but in an instant a guard was racing to
the nearest dock and though the air was thin and almost gone at the
rooftop they managed to launch the fastest one-man, air-scout machine
that the skill of Barsoom had ever produced.

Kissing Dejah Thoris a dozen times and commanding Woola, who would have
followed me, to remain and guard her, I bounded with my old agility and
strength to the high ramparts of the palace, and in another moment I
was headed toward the goal of the hopes of all Barsoom.

I had to fly low to get sufficient air to breathe, but I took a
straight course across an old sea bottom and so had to rise only a few
feet above the ground.

I traveled with awful velocity for my errand was a race against time
with death. The face of Dejah Thoris hung always before me. As I
turned for a last look as I left the palace garden I had seen her
stagger and sink upon the ground beside the little incubator. That she
had dropped into the last coma which would end in death, if the air
supply remained unreplenished, I well knew, and so, throwing caution to
the winds, I flung overboard everything but the engine and compass,
even to my ornaments, and lying on my belly along the deck with one
hand on the steering wheel and the other pushing the speed lever to its
last notch I split the thin air of dying Mars with the speed of a
meteor.

An hour before dark the great walls of the atmosphere plant loomed
suddenly before me, and with a sickening thud I plunged to the ground
before the small door which was withholding the spark of life from the
inhabitants of an entire planet.

Beside the door a great crew of men had been laboring to pierce the
wall, but they had scarcely scratched the flint-like surface, and now
most of them lay in the last sleep from which not even air would awaken
them.

Conditions seemed much worse here than at Helium, and it was with
difficulty that I breathed at all. There were a few men still
conscious, and to one of these I spoke.

"If I can open these doors is there a man who can start the engines?" I
asked.

"I can," he replied, "if you open quickly. I can last but a few
moments more. But it is useless, they are both dead and no one else
upon Barsoom knew the secret of these awful locks. For three days men
crazed with fear have surged about this portal in vain attempts to
solve its mystery."

I had no time to talk, I was becoming very weak and it was with
difficulty that I controlled my mind at all.

But, with a final effort, as I sank weakly to my knees I hurled the
nine thought waves at that awful thing before me. The Martian had
crawled to my side and with staring eyes fixed on the single panel
before us we waited in the silence of death.

Slowly the mighty door receded before us. I attempted to rise and
follow it but I was too weak.

"After it," I cried to my companion, "and if you reach the pump room
turn loose all the pumps. It is the only chance Barsoom has to exist


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